The competition to start opposite Darius Slay appears to be a two-horse race. But what will the Detroit Lions do if no one steps up this summer?
Deep in the heart of the offseason, with the draft long over and the free agent market depleted, this is not the time for an NFL team to begin hunting for a starter who isn’t already on their bloated 90-man roster. Yet, the Detroit Lions could find themselves in that very uncomfortable predicament.
The Lions might be in need of a starting cornerback this summer. And that’s not even considering the fact two-time Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay skipped Detroit’s mandatory minicamp (and could do the same for training camp) because he wants a new deal.
Beyond Slay, the Lions still need someone to step up and earn the starting cornerback role opposite him. Last season’s starter, Nevin Lawson, is now a member of the Oakland Raiders. Detroit gave free agent cornerback Justin Coleman a monstrous four-year, $36 million this offseason, but it’s believed Detroit would prefer to keep him in the slot rather than move him outside.
Unless a rookie like fifth rounder Amani Oruwariye or someone like Jamal Agnew surprises this summer, the competition to earn the starting role appears to be a two-horse race. That being between free agent signee Rashaan Melvin and former second-rounder Teez Tabor.
Here how ESPN’s Michael Rothstein explained the Lions’ current cornerback situation as his biggest offseason question is: Who is playing cornerback opposite Darius Slay?
"“Slay stayed away throughout the offseason, giving Detroit ample time to look at Rashaan Melvin and Teez Tabor as possible outside corner options. Melvin has been largely quiet, which isn’t terrible for a corner, while Tabor has had some standout plays and also some struggles in a critical offseason for the former second-round pick. Neither option has made enough of a splash yet to make Detroit feel comfortable there.”"
Entering his seventh year in the NFL, Melvin posted two solid seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before struggling last year with the Oakland Raiders. Just 29-years old, Melvin is on a one-year prove-it deal in Detroit to show he can return to form.
As for Tabor, the former high 2017 selection has been unable to shake his draft bust label after severely underperforming over the past two years. Although 23-year old has impressed onlookers this offseason, betting on the teasing Tabor to earn the starting role seems like the longest of long shots. Especially considering Pro Football Focus ranked him as the team’s worst defensive player in 2018.
So what will the Lions do if both Melvin and Tabor fail to impress this summer? Moving Coleman back outside seems to make the most sense. Detroit could also opt to shift safety Quandre Diggs back to the slot, a position he played prior to last season.
Although these are moves the Detroit Lions undoubtedly do not want to make, they may have no choice. It seems unlikely they’d find a starting cornerback on the waiver wire. Although I wouldn’t discount a possible trade scenario if the right player becomes expendable.
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